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Wagner: Das Liebesverbot / Weigle, Nagy, Bronder, Reid, Bode, Mayer

Wagner / Chor Der Oper Frankfurt / Weigle
Release Date: 07/30/2013 
Label:  Oehms   Catalog #: 942   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Richard Wagner
Performer:  Anna RybergKihwan SimMichael NagySimon Bode,   ... 
Conductor:  Sebastian Weigle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Frankfurt Opera and Museum OrchestraFrankfurt Opera Chorus
Number of Discs: 3 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

WAGNER Das Liebesverbot Sebastien Weigle, cond; Michael Nagy ( Friedrich ); Christiane Libor ( Isabella ); Peter Bender ( Luzio ); Charles Reid ( Claudio ); Anna Gabler ( Mariana ); Thorsten Grumbel ( Brighella ); Frankfurt Opera O & Ch Read more class="BULLET12"> • OEHMS 942 (3 CDs: 148:30 Text and Translation) Live: Frankfurt 5/2 & 4/2012

Das Liebesverbot , loosely based upon Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure , is Wagner’s second complete opera and a product of his 22nd year. To voice a complaint I don’t necessarily make about all his subsequent ones, I think it runs a bit too long. It certainly doesn’t sound like a Wagner opera. If it were not for the use of German, my blindfolded guess as to its composer would have been, say, Auber. If my turntable were not temporarily inoperative, I could have listened to no less than six recordings, since I have the Zallinger and the Schwarz on LP. The latter is touted as a recording of the 1983 American premiere. As it is, I own the Heger and was able to borrow the Downes and Sawallisch CDs (it’s nice to have friends with big record collections). The action takes place in Palermo where Friedrich, the emperor’s deputy, disgusted with what he perceives to be the population’s general immorality, has banned drinking, gambling, romance, and any other “immoral” activities, including the upcoming carnival. The penalty for disobedience can be execution. Claudio, whose sister, Isabella, is a nun, gets caught in romantic activity and jailed. Isabella pleads for his freedom with Friedrich who, struck by her beauty, says he will free Claudio if she will give herself to him. Having posed this moral dilemma, both the play and the opera, with the old standbys of disguises, surprises, and thwarted seducers, bring about the inevitable happy ending, with Isabella marrying her admirer, Luzio; Dorella, Claudio’s ex-girlfriend, marrying Brighella, Friedrich’s deputy; and Friedrich being reunited with his cast-off wife, Mariana. In the play, Isabella marries the emperor himself and Luzio is whipped and forced to marry a prostitute, but let’s not go into that.

It appears that the conductors on three of the recordings I auditioned, including Sebastian Weigle, share my belief that the opera runs too long for he, Wolfgang Sawallisch (Orfeo), and Robert Heger (Golden Melodram) subject the opera to cuts. All the performances strike me as good ones, although I have reservations about two of the Luzios, Peter Bronder (Weigle) and Friedrich Lenz (Sawallisch), whose singing strikes me as effortful, but, as it happens, my favorite of the four recordings was the uncut one, that of Edward Downes, a clearly-recorded 1976 broadcast that appears on the Ponto label. The British cast not only sings well and without clowning, but keeps its collective tongue in its cheek. Unfortunately, it’s on the expensive side for an opera you aren’t likely to play very often—you could obtain the good-sounding 1962 mono recording by the veteran Robert Heger, which features some good old Vienna reliables (Hilde Zadek, Hanny Steffek, Kurt Equiluz, Anton Dermota, Heinz Imdahl), for less than half the price; of course, you’ll only get about two-thirds of the opera, but that might be enough—none of the big numbers are missing and a lot of the cuts are in repetitious ensembles and recitatives.

The recordings of Wolfgang Sawallisch, a live 1963 staged performance from Munich, and Sebastien Weigle, feature more discrete cuts than Heger’s and, unless you have a libretto (not provided by Ponto, Golden Melodram, or Orfeo), you probably wouldn’t notice them. For that matter, the libretto provided by Oehms is in German only, but at least it’s a libretto. Fortunately, the Zallinger and Schwartz LPs came with German-English librettos, as I believe the Downes LP did.You’ll hear some stage noise on the Sawallisch but, since it’s stereophonic, it conveys the feeling of a good live opera performance taking place before you. The big star of the performance is, of course, Hermann Prey as Friedrich. Although the Weigle did not get recorded in a theater, it is “staged” and has the splendid production values of his earlier Wagner recordings: rich, clear sound, vivid staging, dynamic conducting, and good playing. Maybe it’s because Das Liebesverbot is less demanding than the Ring operas, but the cast seems stronger than previous Frankfurt ones I reviewed here. Outstanding is the Isabella of Christiane Libor—it’s a demanding role, requiring agility and power, and she nails it. Typically, the cast sings as if the words actually mean something; even if there are few “golden” voices, the singers are always “on message,” just as they are on Weigle’s Ring recordings. It’s a strong performance, and at least you get a German libretto. Perhaps that should make it your choice. If you can obtain a libretto with an English translation, my suggestion would be to consider the uncut Downes (my personal favorite) or the most heavily-cut one (Heger). No matter which recording you chose, you can’t really lose.

FANFARE: James Miller
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Works on This Recording

Das Liebesverbot by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Anna Ryberg (Soprano), Kihwan Sim (Bass Baritone), Michael Nagy (Baritone),
Simon Bode (Tenor), Peter Bronder (Tenor), Franz Mayer (Tenor),
Anna Gabler (Soprano), Thorsten Grumbel (Bass), Christiane Libor (Soprano),
Charles Reid (Tenor)
Conductor:  Sebastian Weigle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Frankfurt Opera and Museum Orchestra,  Frankfurt Opera Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1836; Germany 

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